By Giorgio Cremaschi
Double standards have always been a hallmark of the European ruling classes. At least since the governments and liberal revolutions of the late 1700s proclaimed human rights, except for slaves overseas and most of the workers.
Europe’s double standards collapsed exactly one hundred years ago with the first world war. After twenty years of massacres the continent that came out of the defeat of fascism seemed to want to change direction. The competition between the communist east and liberal-democratic west was also around the issues of social equality and the extension of rights. The upshot was the welfare state, the greatest achievement of the collective history of mankind, in my view.
The collapse of socialism along with the neoliberal turn in world economic policy profoundly challenged in Europe that conquest and imposed a regression we witness each day. And so returned the rule of double standards; social and labour rights have become costs and liberty is confined to the freedom of the markets. The noble principles that were the cornerstone of the construction of the European Union have become instruments of the policies of austerity and rigor.
Those who designed the economic and social disaster of the Euro have often justified themselves by explaining that the single currency would have to be the first step towards a united Europe, of justice and solidarity. Now these good principles are proclaimed to justify the continuation of the Euro, fiscal pacts and memoranda of understandings that support it.
In just a few years fifty million European citizens have plunged into poverty, bringing us closer to the old Third World. The level of unemployment is higher than that of the thirties of the last century, the concentration of wealth and social inequality, several studies tell us, are returning to levels of a hundred years ago. And perhaps this is why modern Europe is restoring the old political language. It was the summer of 1914 that the word ultimatum resonated so much in continental diplomacy. Then it was Austria-Hungary who used it against small Serbia, today the whole EU deploys it against little Greece.
The ultimatum issued to the Greek government is not about the debt. The debt is unsustainable, and that it is in the interests of the creditors to defer payment, and even forgive [some of] the debt is now taken for granted. If this were to happen, stock markets would party. But what is essential to understand is that any such action cannot be done by questioning austerity policies. The privatization of health, education, the welfare state and the public sector, mass layoffs, brutal wage cuts, structural unemployment, all this must continue. Greece will have more money only on the condition it will continue the economic policies that led to the collapse.
Europe requires the continuation of austerity led by the Troika. The Greek government are granted small, superficial margins of manoeuvre, but the substance is to obey the ultimatum. Bend or be destroyed: this is the ancient language of war that constitutionalises Europe of austerity.
Words of war that are increasingly slipping from economic conflicts to real war situations. In Ukraine Europe denies the principle of self-determination of peoples, in the name of which it bombed Belgrade in 1999 to give independence to Kosovo. And they return to Libya with gunboats, now called drones, without there being any criticism for twenty years of humanitarian wars that have only succeeded in breeding and feeding monstrosities.
Hypocrisy dominates a Europe that proclaimed “We are Charlie” after the massacre of Paris, but then condemns the cartoons depicting the finance minister of Germany as a Nazi. The Europe of human rights cannot save those who die of cold in the boats of the Mediterranean, even though the cost of a pair of F35s could safely do so for years.
Those who govern this continent today use fear as their main tool of consensus. Imperialist Europe of the 1800s boasted an imperial mission in the world, the white man’s civilizing burden, Kipling wrote, imposing obedience on other peoples. It was horrible, but today this Europe of banks asks the world to bail it out, and threatens the peoples with the fear of losing everything if they are not obedient.
This Europe is no longer a point of reference, but an obstacle to the progress of humanity. This narrow-minded and hypocritical Europe inspires a shame that will cease only when its peoples, as they have done throughout history, remove the rulers from their thrones. Until then I be ashamed to be European.
Translation by Revolting Europe